New Social Entrepreneurs Fund launched by Bridges Ventures

12th November 2008

Bridges Ventures today announces the launch of the Bridges Social Entrepreneurs Fund, a new fund dedicated to investment in social enterprises. The Fund is an initiative of the Bridges Charitable Trust and has so far raised £4.25 million. NESTA, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, who made the first commitment to the […]

Bridges Ventures today announces the launch of the Bridges Social Entrepreneurs Fund, a new fund dedicated to investment in social enterprises. The Fund is an initiative of the Bridges Charitable Trust and has so far raised £4.25 million. NESTA, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, who made the first commitment to the fund and acted as a catalyst for private sector investment, will be hosting the launch event being held today.

The other Founder Partners are individuals and institutions from the financial sector and include Sir Ronald Cohen, Nigel Doughty, Harvey McGrath, The Apax Foundation, The Generation Foundation, Lehman Brothers Foundation Europe, Deutsche Bank, 3i and the Bridges Ventures team who have allocated funds from their profit share.  All the founder partners have supported the fund through donations to the Bridges Charitable Trust creating what will be an Evergreen Fund.

The Bridges Social Entrepreneurs Fund will invest in scalable social enterprises that deliver a high social impact and operate financially sustainable business models. The fund will invest up to £1m in each social enterprise, through hands-on, equity-like capital and aims to achieve a high social impact, through recycling capital into multiple projects, and to establish a track record of financial returns to attract additional investment into the sector.

The launch of the fund follows on from Bridges Ventures’ 2005 report entitled “Equity-like Capital for Social Ventures”, which was  based on its experiences and research in this area.  The report showed that successful social enterprises provide an innovative means of making a sustained social impact in areas of society where their help is much needed.  As demonstrated by Café Direct, the Eden Project and Fifteen Restaurant, the sector has enormous growth potential, but many social enterprises need capital to develop and they find raising investment appropriate to their needs to be a major obstacle.

The report also identified the need to give support to social enterprises to help them attract funding, and Bridges Ventures will work closely with UnLtd, the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs to make sure that social entrepreneurs seeking funding are investment ready.

Sir Ronald Cohen, Founding Chairman of Bridges Ventures said:

“The development of social enterprises is being held back by a chronic shortage of long-term capital. The launch of the Bridges Social Entrepreneurs Fund is an important development in addressing their long-term investment needs.”

Jonathan Kestenbaum, Chief Executive of NESTA added:

“We believe the fund will change the landscape for investment in social enterprises. In particular, the blend of public, private and institutional capital will have radical implications for the field”.

Antony Ross, Director of the Bridges Social Entrepreneurs Fund commented:

“We are delighted to be launching this innovative fund and are looking forward to helping ambitious social entrepreneurs build their enterprises. The fund will be able to draw on Bridges Ventures’ established networks, experience and resources in reviewing opportunities, supporting investments and reporting to investors on both social and financial returns, and we hope that we will be able to establish a sustainable funding model capable of providing intelligent, much needed finance to an important and overlooked sector.”

– Ends –

Fund enquiries:

Social enterprises looking for growth capital, and investors interested in supporting the fund, should contact:

Antony Ross/Skye Heller 020 7262 5566

Media enquiries:

HB Communications for Bridges Ventures 020 7637 2780

Tom Hampson-Bellon

Florence Drake


Chani Hirsch         020 7438 2601

Jo Oakes 020 7438 2643

UnLtd 020 7566 1137

Glynn Pegler

Nicola Jones

Notes to editors:

Social Enterprise Interest in social enterprises, the name given to businesses that achieve both social and environmental goals, has grown over the last decade.  The sector has also developed – with trailblazers like The Big Issue, the Eden Project and Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant showing the power of social entrepreneurship and demonstrating how to do good and do well.

The social enterprise sector is estimated to comprise more than 55,000 businesses in the UK with a combined turnover of £27 billion. Social enterprises account for 5% of all businesses with employees, and contribute £8.4 billion per year to the UK economy – almost 1% of GDP.

There is currently a lack of accurate trend data for social enterprises, but it is clear that whilst the sector is growing, it remains starved of the long term capital it needs to develop in a sustained manner. Providing that long term capital will accelerate the development, growth and impact of social enterprises in the UK.

Social enterprises provide innovative and informed responses to tackling some of our most entrenched social and environmental challenges.  Whilst the potential they offer society is exciting, their growth is hampered by a lack of access to equity-like capital.


The Bridges Social Entrepreneurs Fund will be managed by Antony Ross, one of the five Executive Directors of Bridges Ventures, and Skye Elliott, who has joined the Bridges Ventures team as an investment executive for the new fund.

Bridges Ventures is a fund management company with a social mission whose commercial expertise is used to achieve social or environmental aims as well as attractive returns for investors. Bridges Ventures is chaired by Sir Ronald Cohen, co-founder and former chairman of Apax Partners.  Key backers include Apax Partners, 3i and Doughty Hanson.

Two funds have been raised to date. The first fund, CDV Fund I, totalled £40m while the second, CDV Fund II, totalled £75m, beating its original target of £50m by 50%, and was closed in 2007. Investors in the second fund include HSBC, Doughty Hanson, Co-operative Financial Services, Barclays Commercial Banking, Lloyds TSB and Citigroup, individuals including Dr Mike Lynch of Autonomy Corporation, Harvey McGrath, formerly of Man Group and Lloyd Dorfman of Travelex, as well as pension funds and endowments including the Universities Superannuation Scheme, the West Midlands Pension Fund and All Souls College.

Bridges Ventures funds deliver social returns both on a geographical and sector-specific basis, which are measured using the Bridges Ventures social IMPACT scorecard and reported to investors alongside their financial returns.

Bridges Ventures set up the Bridges Charitable Trust to reflect the social mission of the company and to incentivise the team through social as well as financial rewards. The Trust is a shareholder in Bridges Ventures and the Bridges team donate 10% of their own profits in Bridges Ventures funds to the Bridges Charitable Trust.

For more information on Bridges Ventures please visit

NESTA is the National Endowment for Science, Technology & the Arts. Its mission is to transform the UK’s capacity for innovation. With the largest portfolio of early-stage businesses in the country, it is a leading authority on how to grow new ideas. We also stimulate imaginative solutions to pressing social issues and shape policy to help the UK meet its national innovation challenges.

NESTA’s Social Finance Strategy NESTA programmes test new approaches to developing the UK’s innovative potential. The Social Finance strategy is a groundbreaking initiative that creates new risk capital markets as well as building the infrastructure for social enterprises to grow into sustainable businesses.

For more information on NESTA please visit

UnLtd holds a £100 million endowment especially to invest in UK social entrepreneurs and community activists. It was established in 2002 by 7 leading not for profit organisations. UnLtd’s mission is to reach out and unleash the energies of people who can transform the world in which they live. UnLtd provides individuals and informal groups with cash awards and practical support that includes coaching, training and networking opportunities to help them develop community projects.

UnLtd has the biggest network of social entrepreneurs in the world and since 2002 has invested over £20 million of financial and non financial support in some 7,600 individuals, impacting on many thousands more. UnLtd Research is leading the way in best practice guidelines while the award winning allows social entrepreneurs and social enterprise, as well as the broader community, to share experience, knowledge and resources.

UnLtd Ventures is the in-house consultancy division of UnLtd. It provides business support to a number of outstanding social entrepreneurs, helping them to scale up or replicate their organisations or get investment ready. UnLtd Ventures provides the support and tools that will help entrepreneurs to grow local initiatives into robust and financially sustainable organisations, through scaling or replicating geographically or reaching out to different groups in the community. Where appropriate UnLtd Ventures acts as a broker between our clients and providers of a range of different types of funding.

For more information on UnLtd please visit

Bridges Ventures  acts for the funds they manage or advise and not for anyone else.  They will not act or be responsible for providing protection afforded to their clients to anyone other than such funds. Entrepreneurs and others working with Bridges Ventures should be aware of this and should not expect that they will be treated as clients of Bridges Ventures.

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